Is it time to end the endless meeting culture?

Why am I even here?

Boring meetings - you are doing them wrong


One of the biggest issues that causes underperformance and disengagement is the endless, multiple and pointless meeting. 


But the truth is, the meeting isn’t the problem, the way you are doing them is. If you do them properly, they are engaging, fun, focused, moving things forward and creating accountability. Do them right and everyone speaks up, is listened to and feels like they matter. Do them right and everyone leaves feeling like they made a contribution, and now they know who is doing what, when, how and why. It could be so brilliant, but all too often it isn’t.

No meeting days

More and more companies are banning meetings for one day a week. They listened to the feedback and did something about it. People said they spent too much time in meetings, meaning they hadn’t got time to actually get stuff done.

Teams that have adopted the no meetings day, have reported an increase in productivity. But is it really addressing the problem? I fit means people get super clear on why they want the meeting and who needs to be there, then it’s a good thing. If they simply push the meeting to an approved day, it could even create more stress and create the wrong impact.

And some teams need to meet, either daily or as and when things crop up. Banning meetings actually supresses creativity, communication and team connection.

The Solution:

The solution have meetings, but do them right. Time is precious, don’t waste it. Get focused on what you need to achieve, and then as a group of people, commit to achieving in.

Ensure that meetings have a clear objective, have the right people in “the room” and get an outcome. If you are invited, then you are there because you matter. Your opinion or expertise matters, so it is you duty to speak up and contribute. It’s also your duty to listen to others, so there needs to be rules of engagement around speaking up, and equally not dominating the conversation.

Meeting between 10.30-15.00

With more companies embracing diversity, inclusion and flexible working, rethinking when and how meetings happen is essential. The9am or late afternoon meeting may put unnecessary pressure on those who choose to work flexibly. It may also lead to disengagement or exclusion.

If you want the best talent, and that means embracing diversity and inclusion, you need to think about how your work and meeting schedules flex and adapt to make it work.

The Solution:

If you need specific people in a meeting, think about when it works best. After 10am might mean everyone can meet easily. It gives people the opportunity to do the life tasks, check emails, set themselves up for the day and then attend the meeting completely focused and ready to contribute.

If you need an all dayer or a late meeting, schedule it in with notice, not popping it in last minute and expecting people to make it happen. Be respectful of others time, and don’t just look at your own schedule and what works for you. And remember to use technology. Meetings don’t have to be in the same building or room. If you are dragging people into “work” for a meeting you had better make sure it’s worth their time.

Can't get the right people in the room

Have you ever been to a meeting and realise that the decision maker or subject matter expert isn’t even in the room? It’s more common than you think. Diary clashes, annual leave or other commitments are inevitable. As the meeting caller, it’s your job to make sure that you get the right people in the room, real or virtual, or don’t have the meeting at all.

The Solution:

Get clear on what the topic or agenda is, who needs to be involved and what the priority is. If you gain that clarity, then you can explain this in the meeting invite. If it’s that important, others may reschedule or ask you to do so.

Ask yourself how long the meeting needs to be, who really needs to be there, and if it can be done virtually, over the phone or via video conferencing. As we embrace more matrix style working, the need for flexible meetings, across different platforms and timezones is becoming more prevalent.


If it’s that important, you will need to flex your approach to get the right people in the room at the right time. 

Leaders speak last

All too often, you’ll go to the meeting and the leader will speak and share their ideas, decisions and allocate actions and then close the meeting. The rest of the attendees not their heads, write a few notes, perhaps answer a few questions, but have they really challenged or made a difference?

These kinds of meetings are dull and dilute what could be a fantastic, lively, highly energised meeting. You could have meetings where people freely speak up, challenge, test assumptions and move the conversation forward. But instead, it sticks to a parent/child tell, yell, direct style meeting that’s like pulling teeth.

The Solution:

The leader needs to pose the question, throw in a concept or a vision, and then simply facilitate the conversation.


They set the environment where no one gets to be right or wrong, and no idea is a bad idea, just an idea. The team are encouraged to kick the stones, name the elephants in the room and to take a few risks.


And when all ideas are on the table, with all opinions and options, can the leader make an informed decision. You see when people weigh in, they buy in. They commit to a decision and support it personally and publicly. They become accountable as they were involved in the decision. 


The leader needs to ensure everyone speaks up and feels safe to do so. They also need to move the conversation forward, and turn the volume down on the more exuberant, domineering or extroverted characters. Their role is to facilitate and lead, not to come up with all of the solutions.

and the outcomes

1.

Who is doing what by when? At the end of the meeting ask everyone to share what they think has been agreed. Don’t think that this is a waste of time. It is so common for a group of people to leave a room with differing ideas on what was actually agreed. We all interpret information based on our inner dialogue and motivations. We filter based on our own agendas and priorities. Asking people to share what they think has been agreed ensure that there is no ambiguity and that everyone is on the same page. 

2.

Agree the communication plan. If actions, news or changes have been agreed, how you communicate this to stakeholders and team members is crucial. You need to ensure there is one common voice, message and truth. You don’t want a team member saying, “Well I didn’t like the idea, but I was overruled”, or another person hearing the news in the coffee room, another hearing it on the grapevine a week later and someone else only finding out after the changes have been made. This creates mistrust, exclusion and fear.


So agree what will be communicated, when and how.

3.

Accountability. Now everyone in the room has committed and agreed who is doing what by when – you have to deliver it. Too many meetings start with updates from others, explaining why they didn’t do what they needed to do. Enough. Take accountability. If you committed to do something, make sure you do it. If you are struggling, speak up and ask for help.

There is no point having a meeting if no one is accountable for delivering on the outcomes. 

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